If you’re planning a trip to Sydney Australia, I am going to give you a full list of things to do in Sydney including Sydney day trips. I will then say which of these I would do and when if you are looking for a 3 day Sydney Itinerary. Next up I will add in 2 more days of what to do in Sydney for a 5 day Sydney Itinerary. And then, of course, another 2 days for a Sydney Itinerary 7 days. Hopefully, that should give you everything you need for your perfect itinerary for Sydney!
Sydney Itinerary: How to get to Sydney and how to get around Sydney
Yes, I am afraid it is a very long flight and there is no way around that! A stopover in Asia is often a good idea to break things up.
The only way to make the 24-hour flight not a hideous slice of hell is to find a great deal and go business class! Skyscanner also gives you a good sense of business-class prices. Personally, I won’t go to Australia anymore unless it is in business class. I have several reviews of my long distances business class experiences covering Qatar Airways, Air France, Malaysia Airways, Iberia and Thai Airways.
Sydney has quite an extensive public transport system. The trains and buses coverage is quite extensive and easy to use. A new light rail opened in early 2020 and runs through the centre of Sydney and into the south. And of course, there are the famous Sydney ferries! Do try to use ferries whenever you can as for a small price you will get some great views of Sydney!
All of these systems take Opal Cards. An Opal Card is a smart card which can be used to tap on and tap off all forms of Sydney public transport (including the ferries). It is possible to order an Opal card online before heading to Sydney. Or once you arrive they can be purchased at the airport, most train stations, major ferry stations like Circular Quay or from many newsagents.
If you are planning on staying in Sydney for more than 3 days and are keen to explore a bit more it may well be worthwhile to hire a car.
Things to do in Sydney
1. The Sydney Harbour Bridge Experience
Yes, it is expensive. And you can’t take your camera which really hurts. But The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is fantastic! I wouldn’t recommend it if you are scared of heights though – it is extremely safe and you are clipped in the whole time but it would be tough if you suffered from any type of vertigo.
There are three different options for tickets. The standard is the summit ticket which involves going to the top of the bridge (134m) and then back down in 3 1/2 hours. This involves 1390 stairs The express ticket does the same in 2 1/2 hours and is 1000 steps. The sampler ticket is 1 1/2 hours and only includes climbing a small portion of the bridge.
The cost may then vary depending on the time of day. Tickets are booked in one-hour slots. Twilight and night are more expensive. I would highly recommend taking the twilight option as the sunsets in Sydney can be amazing.
2. Take a Pub Crawl through Paddington
Paddington is a lovely little suburb not far from the Sydney CBD and often included on Sydney best things-to-do lists. It also has a large number of lovely old-style Aussie pubs – most of which now serves some great pub food. The area is quite small but you may stumble in the dark – there will be taxis easily available to take you around.
Kick-off your Paddington Pub Crawl at the Four in Hand and then head to The London. Check ahead on The London as they are famous for their bargain dinner evenings – particularly steak night. Once you’ve eaten there head to the Royal Hotel and right up to the top floor (there is a lift in the back behind the bar to save you climbing four flights of stairs) for their tiny rooftop courtyard with a stunning view. Then finish off the night at Lord Dudley for a more English pub experience Sydney style.
3. The Bondi to Coogee walk
The Bondi to Coogee walk is the most famous walk in Australia for good reason – the views are amazing! Start your walk in Coogee at the gorgeous Coogee Pavillion where you can grab a coffee to get you going for the walk. Then follow the path north. If it is a particularly warm day pop into the lovely and free Giles baths just past Coogee to cool down – or definitely stop for a photo.
You’ll then head past the cemetery with some of the best views in Australia and then the most instagrammable spot in Australia – the Bondi Icebergs Pool. Finish up in Bondi with a flat white and some avocado on toast at Harry’s.
⇒ For some other great places to take photos check out this great post on the 30 Most Instagrammable Places in Australia.
4. Take the Ferry from Circular quay
Don’t leave Sydney without getting on a ferry. They are a very cheap way to get a tour of Sydney Harbour. There are so many to choose from. The Manly ferry is one of the most famous routes but watch out for busy commuters. There is no such thing as a bad ferry trip but make sure you check times as some only run during commuter hours and during the week.
5. Take Fast boat trip around the harbour
There are endless options for boats when it comes to Sydney harbour. The harbour is obviously one of the Sydney best things to do – it is just figuring out the best way to do it. You can and should take an actual ferry as per my previous point. However for something a bit different try a fast boat or a jet boat. If you head down to circular quay you will see several of them advertising heavily.
Watch what you wear as at a minimum you will get spray even with some cover. Not ideal if you are heading out for a nice dinner after from a hair point of view! But you will bounce and rock around Sydney harbour – oh and give it a miss if you have any back problems. Or if you would prefer something more relaxing then take a cruise around Sydney harbour with lunch included.
6. Visit The Sydney Fish Market
This is probably Sydney’s most famous market and deservedly so. It is located not far from the centre of Sydney and very near Pyrmont, Darling Harbour and Balmain. Come here hungry! Sydney Fish Market is one of those places that is filled with both locals and tourists. It is a tradition for Sydney siders to hit the fish market very early around key dates such as Australia Day, Xmas etc to buy their seafood. As a tourist, I would suggest a weekday lunch or dinner.
Rather than eat at one of the restaurants at the Sydney Fish Market go to the undercover section of the market where you can have any and every type of seafood you can imagine and then go and sit at the outside tables. Importantly you can also have wine. And don’t leave without trying Morton bay bugs if they are available – forget lobster this guy is the king of white fish meat!
Barangaroo is a relatively new very exciting neighbourhood in Sydney. Shockingly, there was a rather large area of Sydney New South Wales just over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and to the side of the central business district that was quite a no man’s land. Extraordinary in a city with such high real estate prices! There has been a massive amount of investment in this region to create the streets of Barangaroo.
The team behind Barangaroo Sydney have done an outstanding job. They were inspired by the laneways of Melbourne and they have managed to create an area that already feels like a neighbourhood rather than a new complex. Best of all, Barangaroo is home to some of the most exciting and interesting Sydney restaurants.
8. See some Fireworks
Sydney loves fireworks. LOVES them. They are literally on every second night – or maybe it just feels that way. Anyway, your most likely place to spot fireworks is Darling Harbour. They tend to be on earlier in the evening (although obviously once it is dark) and are more common on weekend nights.
9. Sydney Opera House
One of the most famous buildings in the world, the iconic Sydney Opera House does not disappoint. This is a live, working building with performances on day and night. I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House to find out all the backstories and to be able to explore the building.
A second great way to visit the Opera house is to attend an opera! Yet again, this is a ticket to book far in advance as tickets for actual opera at the Sydney Opera House tend to sell out fast.
The third way to experience the Opera House is through food and wine. The Opera House is home to one of Australia’s top restaurants, Bennelong. If you are looking for something more casual there is no better way to finish off any day exploring Sydney than with a glass of wine at the Opera Bar. Like the fish markets, the Opera Bar is loved by locals and tourists alike.
The views from the Opera Bar Sydney are fabulous and the outdoor seating area is massive so no matter how busy it is you should be able to get some kind of seat. The wine list is long and there are lots of food options. They also offer up free water and sunscreen which you will need if you are sitting there on a nice day. A perfect way to finish up a day of visiting Sydney Highlights!
The second most famous beach in Sydney is Manly beach. This sea-side suburb is highly sought after by both locals and tourists – particularly as it is easily accessed by the well-known ferry between Circular Quay and Manly. Bring your bathers and go for a swim. Explore the Manly Scenic Walkway where you’ll see more beautiful beaches and stunning views.
And make sure you time for you visit for brunch or lunch as Manly has a great food scene. Have charcoal croissants at Rollers Bakehouse, take the healthy option at Showbox Coffee Brewers or enjoy nordic dining Sydney style at Fika Swedish Kitchen.
11. Watsons Bay
Watsons Bay Sydney is ridiculously beautiful. It is Australia’s oldest fishing village. Visting Watsons Bay is like being in a beautiful beach resort but with amazing views of the Sydney Central Business District. It is also home to sandy beaches and some great places to eat. It is very easy to get from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. Captain Cook Ferries runs the ferry and offers single, return and multi tickets – all of which can be purchased online.
Once you get off the Watsons Bay ferry walkthrough Robertson Park away from the Watsons Bay Hotel and you’ll get to where the buses stop. Cross the road and you’re at the Gap Sydney which is a drop-dead stunning ocean cliff. The 4.5km walk Watsons Bay Walk around the South Head is pretty easygoing and can take up to 2 hours depending on how fast you want to go.
There are two Doyles restaurants at Watsons Bay – the proper sit down more upmarket restaurant and then the very popular take away restaurant with a seating area restaurant that is at the ferry station. Whichever option you choose, I highly recommend the grilled barramundi (for me Australia’s best white fish) with chips and salad!
12. Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is the most well-known beach in all of Australia. And it is a proper beach with golden sands and big ocean waves. Locals come here as often as do tourists. Grab your towel and your bathers and head on down on a nice day. This is also a great place to learn to surf if you’ve been keen or to practice your surfing.
13. The Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Point
Sydney is a very green city! A wonderful walk in the centre of Sydney is through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Start your walk at Woolloomooloo Gate on the eastern side of the gardens by heading to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. It’s not officially part of the Royal Botanic Gardens but it is right next door and it has some stunning views over the bay and of the city skyline.
The point – and the chair at the point – are named after Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth. She ordered a seat carved into the rocks so that she could sit and enjoy the view! A wise choice Elizabeth! Walk back from Mrs Macquarie’s Poit and through the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Opera House.
Along the way, you will see loads of beautiful plants and gardens as well as unique trees. The botanic gardens are also loved by locals so you will see people having picnics, runners, couples and all sorts. If you head down by the water there are some fantastic views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
The path will take you to the back of the Sydney Opera House where there are even more photo opportunities.
14. The Rocks
The Rocks are one of the most touristy areas in Sydney – but it is still full of charm and visited by locals as it is home to some fantastic restaurants and art galleries. The Rocks is where European settlers first came ashore into Australia and it is essentially the birthplace of Sydney. It is filled with cobblestone streets and character and some of Australia’s oldest pubs – with many claiming the title of the oldest pub!
The Rocks is a lovely area to just walk around and absorb the atmosphere. This is a great place to take a guided walking tour so you can hear some of the stories of early Sydney. For me, the highlight of the Rocks is its market. The market runs Friday through Sunday with slightly longer hours on the weekends. The stalls are filled with local craftspeople and this is a great place to buy a unique and memorable souvenir of Sydney.
15. Taronga Zoo
This could be the zoo with the best views in the world! Just a 12-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo has 75 hectares of prime Sydney real estate! The zoo is home to over 4,000 animals and there are 20 daily shows and talks. You will see plenty of kangaroos and there is a Koala encounter every day. It isn’t possible to touch the koalas but you can stand close enough to get a decent photo.
⇒ Skip the queue and buy your Taronga Zoo ticket online before you go
16. Cremorne Reserve
Another stunning walk in Sydney is over in the Northern Suburbs near Neutral Bay. To get to Cremorne Reserve, hop on the ferry at Circular Quay and head over to Cremorne Point. Head up to Robertsons Point at the tip of Cremorne Reserve for some stunning views of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This is a fantastic area to explore either via the 3km Cremorne Point Circular Walk or relax by bringing a picnic lunch and sit and enjoy the views.
17. Paddington Market
My favourite market in Sydney is Paddington Market. This unique market in the eastern suburb of Paddington has been running every Saturday since 1973 – a long time in Australia! It is a not for profit market and it only features Australian designed and crafted products – many of which can only be purchased at Paddington Market. They also always have an amazing food section.
18. Explore Sydney’s Laneways and City Arcades
The centre of Sydney, or the CBD, is filled with lovely laneways and arcades. For some serious shopping head to the beautiful Queen Victoria Building. The Strand Arcade sits right in the heart of Sydney’s CBD and is also home to many stores. Ash Street and Angel Lane are my favourite laneways in Sydney. They are home to two fantastic restaurants – Ash St Cellar and Felix – as well the “Forgotten Songs” art installation of 50 empty birdcages.
⇒ If you’re heading to Perth don’t miss my post on the fantastic Rottnest Island and how to take a quokka selfie!
19. Breakfast with the Koalas
Head to the Wild Life Zoo at Darling Harbour on a weekend morning to enjoy a hot breakfast with the koalas! Koalas are very lazy – they sleep on average for 20 hours a day. The most they move tends to be in the morning. This experience gives guests two hours with the koalas as well as a hot breakfast. Again, it isn’t possible to touch the koalas but there are photo opportunities.
⇒ Skip the line and buy your Breakfast with Koalas ticket now.
Tours of Sydney:
There are loads of ways to explore Sydney as part of a tour. This is often a necessary way to explore Sydney as it is often a much easier way to get out onto Sydney Harbour! Here are some of the most popular tours in Sydney:
⇒ a Jet Boat Tour of Sydney harbour is a great way to get a feel for the city – but I do warn you that you will most likely get wet!
⇒ take a Pub Walking Tour of The Rocks
⇒ or a great affordable way to see the entire harbour is the Sydney Harbour Hop-on Hop-off Cruise
⇒ If you’re keen on exploring more of Foodie Sydney check out Taste Tour’s Taste of Chinatown Tour or their Taste of Syria, Afghanistan and Persia tour of Merrylands.
Day Trips from Sydney
In addition to all that Sydney has on offer, there are loads of great easy day trip options. The most popular day trips from Sydney are:
⇒ The most popular day trip from Sydney is to the beautiful Blue Mountains
⇒ For wine lovers don’t miss a day trip to the nearby Hunter Valley
⇒ Visit some of the most beautiful beaches in New South Wales – including where Home and Away is filmed – on this Sydney Northern Beaches tour.
If you’re looking at overnight trips from Sydney don’t miss my post on Sydney’s 10 Best Weekends Away.
3 Day Sydney Itinerary
Sydney Itinerary 3 Days: Day One
Head straight to Circular Quay to check out the world-famous Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Take a tour of the Opera House and then have lunch at the Opera Bar. After lunch head to the Rocks and take a guided tour and/or visit the market if it’s running.
For sunset take on the Sydney Bridge Climb! After you’re done head upstairs at the fantastic Hotel Palisades for a meal with a view!
In the morning head out onto the harbour itself on a jet boat or take a cruise. Then it’s on to the famous Bondi Beach to check it out and have lunch at Harry’s. After lunch, it’s time for the famous Bondi to Coogee walk. Reward yourself with a drink at the Coogee Pavillion when you finish. In the evening head to the Sydney Fish Market for some barramundi and chips.
Take a day trip to the wonderful Blue Mountains. Back in Sydney, grab some amazing asian fusion dinner at either Chin Chin or Mrs G’s. And see if there are any fireworks on and try to fit everything in!
5 Day Sydney Itinerary
Sydney Itinerary 5 days: Day Four
Start your day with a walk from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to the Sydney Opera House and over to Circular Quay. Then hop on a ferry to Watsons Bay. Have lunch at Doyle’s and then head to the Gap and do the Watsons Bay Walk. In the evening head out on a pub crawl through Paddington and grab some dinner at one of the pub’s listed.
5 Days in Sydney: Day Five
It’s all about Australian wildlife today! Head to Darling Harbour for breakfast with the Koalas. Then into the cbd to Ash Lane for some lunch. Walk down to Circular Quay and hop on a ferry and head over to Taronga Zoo for the afternoon. See some opera at the Sydney Opera House and have dinner at the Opera Bar.
7 Day Sydney Itinerary
Sydney 7 days Itinerary: Day Six
Today we’re heading to Sydney’s Northern suburbs! Hop on the ferry to Cremorne Point and go on the Cremorne Point Walk. Then over to Manly for lunch and spend the afternoon on the beach. For dinner head to the fantastic Barangaroo.
A week in Sydney Itinerary: Day Seven
Take a day trip to the fantastic Hunter Valley and enjoy some wonderful Australian wine. Then head back to Barangaroo for another great dinner at a different restaurant tonight!
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my itineraries for Austria, Nova Scotia in Canada, Colombia, Chile, Nepal, Namibia, Sicily, Turkey, Cappadocia in Turkey, Scotland, the Scottish Highlands, Jordan and Korea.
Sydney Boutique Hotels
For an amazing location literally right on Sydney Harbour check out Pier One
You can’t go wrong staying at a Langham hotel – this is the Langham Sydney which is walking distance to Barangaroo nestled in The Rocks.
Hotel Palisade is my pick. Hotel Palisade is a gorgeous boutique hotel with fantastic views of Sydney harbour. It also has a great classic ground floor Australian pub and a fantastic cocktail bar with awesome views on the top floor.
And for an affordable boutique hotel in the heart of The Rocks check out The Russell Boutique Hotel
⇒ If you’re heading to Brisbane check out my post on its top boutique hotels.
Sydney Restaurants & Bars
There are so many fantastic places to eat in Sydney! It is so difficult to narrow down restaurant choices for this Sydney Australia Itinerary! I am going to start with my three favourite restaurants because choosing between them would be liking choosing between children! Two of them are my favourite type of food in Australia – asian fusion. I don’t think anyone does asian fusion as well as Australia and I just love it!
Chin Chin began life as a sensation in my hometown of Melbourne and now has a branch in Surry Hills in Sydney which is just as good. Signature dishes are the Kingfish sashimi and the amazing Crispy Barramundi and caramelised pork salad!
Mrs G’s is part of my favourite group of Sydney restaurants, Merivale. It has a fantastic location with great views in lovely Potts Point. It stretches over 3 levels and is full of atmosphere. Don’t miss the cheeseburger spring rolls.
And then Mr Wong. Mr Wong is located in a back alley in the Sydney CBD and you’ll know you’ve found it because of the view. Everything is good – I have been here at least 4 times. Don’t miss the duck.
These are the three restaurants I give to everyone I know who is going to Sydney and they always get great feedback! I have written a whole post on the restaurants in the area of Barangaroo, which is currently one of the hottest food areas in Sydney. I have already mentioned the Opera Bar a couple of times. The food is good but when you add in the views it is an amazing dining experience.
The same goes for Hotel Palisade in Miller’s Point. The food is very good but wow the views! Make sure you get in the elevator – it is easy to think you have got the wrong place and that you are in an old pub. Ask directions to the lift as it is kind of hidden in the back.
Doyle’s is home to the most famous fish and chips in Sydney. Visit them at the Sydney Fish Market or in Watsons Bay.
Coogee Pavillion is also owned by the wonderful Merivale group as are Ash Street cellar (European) and Felix (french) in super cute Angel way. Uncle Mings is another fantastic asian fusion bar/restaurant in the CBD. And two of my favourite brunch places are in Bondi – Shuk and Harry’s.
I could go on forever but the above are all really safe bets for a fantastic meal and should easily keep you going if you’re in Sydney for a week. If you’re keen to book ahead I like to use Open Table. However, annoyingly many of the restaurants and bars I have listed above don’t take bookings but they are worth the wait. sorry!
Check out one of the best views of Sydney where you can take your camera! Click here for a post on Seeing Sydney from Above.
Things to know before you go to Sydney
⇒ The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is very popular. This is definitely one to book before you leave home – particularly if you want to do the climb at sunset.
⇒ If you’d like to see an opera at the Sydney Opera House definitely book ahead as these tickets sell out fast as well.
⇒ A great way to explore a city is taking a hop on and hop off tour – Sydney has both a hop on hop off bus and hop on hop off cruise.
⇒ Sydney is very wifi friendly! There is good free wifi at Sydney airport, free wifi on ferries and buses, at all major tourist spots, in most cafes and even at most beaches!
⇒ Australia is just as strict with customs as all those tv shows you may have watched. Don’t bring any type of food item into Australia and do make sure you check the base of any shoes you are bringing in to clear off the soil. Australia takes these things very seriously.
When to go to Sydney
Winter in Sydney is between June and August. Whilst it doesn’t get that cold – it hits at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit on average – there can be major storms. Many of the best things to do in Sydney will involve being outside so it’s not an ideal time to visit. Peak time is December through February. However, this is also when most of Australia is on holiday so places will be busy and more expensive. Also, it gets VERY hot. February is generally the hottest month of the year and you may face temperatures up to 45 degrees Celcius which is very unpleasant.
In my opinion, the best times to go to Sydney are October/November and April/May. These shoulder seasons bring good weather, blue skies and great atmosphere in the city without huge crowds. May is also when the fantastic Vivid festival is held. During this time the city is light up in interesting displays – it is most famous for the incredible images projected onto the Sydney Opera House.
Travelling Solo to Sydney:
Heading to Australia solo? Group tours can be a great option. Here are a few websites worth visiting if you’re looking to join a group tour:
Who Paid for what in this post
As this has been written based on many trips to Sydney – and living there! – there were no real costs associated with writing this post. However, it does contain affiliate links. This means if you click through on some of the links in this post and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. Just wanted to make sure that you knew this.
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